Article Information

Compiled by:
Rashida J. Jinnah MS, RD, LD

Date posted:
31 July 2011

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Eating healthily during the month of Ramadan

Eating dried dates are a good way to get your blood sugar up quickly after a fast. Photo: Nazma Lakhani
Eating dried dates are a good way to get your blood sugar up quickly after a fast. Photo: Nazma Lakhani

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and in Muslim tradition is a time of heightened commitment to piety and purification. Fasting is among the special observances that Muslims undertake, in which they refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk.

Fasting radically alters the diet. Meals are limited to the morning and evening, causing the body’s metabolism to slow. Some may experience discomfort during the day. However, good health can be maintained by consuming adequate nutrients during meals. Below are some tips for observing a healthy and safe fast during Ramadan.

Consider the following:

Avoid:

Grill lean meats and serve with salad and unbuttered naan. Photo: Nazma Lakhani
Grill lean meats and serve with salad and unbuttered naan. Photo: Nazma Lakhani

During the month of Ramadan, you might experience some minor discomforts. The following measures can help prevent these common conditions:

Constipation — Constipation can cause discomfort and indigestion, making you feel bloated. This can be caused by eating too much refined food, drinking too little water and / or not eating enough fibre. To avoid constipation, avoid refined foods by eating foods rich in fibre like whole grain cereals and bread. Increase your intake of high fibre carbohydrates such as daals, dried beans like tabuli, chana, fruits and vegetables. Drink lots of water.

Indigestion — Indigestion can be caused by over-eating or eating too many fried, fatty and spicy foods, or foods that produce gas. Fasting can also cause increased acidity, leading to the feeling of indigestion. To avoid indigestion, try not to overeat. Be sure to drink plenty of water and include foods rich in fibre to neutralise acidity and promote a feeling of fullness without overeating.

Headaches — Headaches while fasting can be caused by caffeine and tobacco-withdrawal, doing too much in one day, lack of sleep, dehydration and hunger. Headaches can occur as the day passes and can worsen by the end of the day. To avoid headaches, prepare for Ramadan by decreasing caffeine and tobacco consumption slowly, starting a week or two before Ramadan. Start drinking caffeine-free teas, coffee, unsweetened juices and water. Also, don’t forget about sleep. Prepare for Ramadan by reorganising your daily schedule to ensure a good night’s rest.

Low blood sugar — Low blood sugar can occur because of the length of time between meals. and Symptoms of low blood sugar need to be watched for carefully. These can include weakness, dizziness, tiredness, poor concentration, perspiration, feeling shaky, an inability to perform physical activities, headaches and palpitations.

Among non-diabetics, having too many refined carbohydrates like sugary foods, sugar-rich beverages like cola and sherbet — especially at saher — can cause low blood sugar during the fast. Low blood sugar can also be caused by not eating at saher. To avoid significant low blood sugar levels, be sure to eat at saher and limit intake of sugary foods and drinks. Make sure to eat nutrient dense foods including proteins, such as chicken, grilled lean meat, and eggs; fibre-rich carbohydrates, like whole wheat roti, and fruits; and a large glass of water.

Remember a meal should be a meal and not a feast. Please always remember to consult your doctor in advance if you have any of these conditions already, so that you can experience a rewarding and healthy Ramadan.

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